Getting Started with FamilySearch’s Shared Family Tree

July 19, 2019  - by 

The FamilySearch Family Tree is the world’s largest online family tree. It is a cooperative, public tree, where participants can see how they connect to each other, learn their lineage, and share what is known about deceased relatives.

When you connect to the FamilySearch shared tree, you may discover ancestors you didn’t know about and learn more about those you are already familiar with. You can even see photos and read family stories uploaded by other descendants. As you build your ancestors’ profiles in the FamilySearch Family Tree, you also create a foundation for other family members to learn more and share what they know about your ancestors.

How to Get Started

To join the FamilySearch Family Tree, go to Sign in or create a free account. Under the Family Tree tab, select Tree.

Screenshot of the FamilySearch navigation menu.

Next, click  Add Father or Add Mother, and enter what you know about your parents.

Screenshot of Add Father and Add Mother buttons on FamilySearch.

Living versus Deceased Ancestors

If a parent or another relative you add is living, FamilySearch will create a private, protected profile that only you can see. Once you add death information to a profile, that person’s profile becomes public. This change means that the profile can be seen by others who are using the shared family tree.

Matching an Ancestor’s Profile with One Already in the Shared Tree

When you try to add a deceased relative, FamilySearch will first check to see if a profile for that person already exists among the 1.2 billion profiles on the Family Tree. You will be shown any profiles with similar information. For example, let’s say you want to add a woman named Opal Collins who was born in 1918 in Kentucky, United States. As shown below, FamilySearch tells you that a similar profile is already in the Family Tree.

Screenshot of adding a match in the Family Tree.

It is up to you to decide whether the existing profile shown under “Possible Matches Found” (with a 1917 birth in Kentucky to the parents shown) is the same Opal Collins you want to add.

  • If the profile information matches what you know about your ancestor, accept it by choosing option 1, Add Match or Add Couple Match.
  • If you are sure none of the profiles matches, create a new profile using option 2, Create Person.
  • If you are not sure whether one of the profiles matches, you can try clicking the profile name to get more information. (Tip: Use Ctrl+click or Command+click to open the person’s page in a new browser tab to avoid interrupting the process of adding your relative.) If you want to add more details to your search to better identify your relative’s profile, you can also choose option 3, Refine Search.

If you take the time to check for a correct match and add it to your tree—instead of creating a new profile for that relative—you may discover more about your relatives, and you can share what you know with other descendants of that person. If you add a match that already has parents and other ancestors attached, you will also make the process of filling in your family tree a lot easier. When a duplicate profile is created for an ancestor who is already in the Family Tree, the profile will later be merged with the existing one.

Adding More Ancestors

After creating or finding profiles for your parents, use the same method to create or find profiles for your grandparents and additional relatives. Note that you can add multiple sets of parents, including stepparents, biological parents, and adoptive parents. Here is how to do it.

Making the Shared Tree Grow

When you connect to existing profiles in the Family Tree, additional deceased relatives who are already connected to them on the tree will automatically appear. The sample diagram below illustrates the process of connecting to the FamilySearch Family Tree on different branches of your tree:

  1. Add profiles for living relatives, which remain private.
  2. Add information about deceased relatives and review possible matches from the shared Family Tree. Deceased profiles will be publicly viewable.
  3. If you found a match in the Tree, additional profiles for other relatives may automatically appear!
Graphic showing how to connect to the FamilySearch shared tree.

You may find mistakes in deceased relatives’ profiles or in the ways they are connected to others. We hope you will help fix them!

What to Do If You Can’t Find a Match

Some people may not find that their relatives are already in the FamilySearch shared tree. If this is the case for you, you have the challenge and privilege of adding what you know. Then you and your living relatives can collaborate to learn more about them. Others around the world who are related to those same people may eventually discover and connect with you on the FamilySearch shared tree.

Go to FamilySearch and create your place on the FamilySearch Family Tree today!

How to Find Your Family

Sunny Morton

Sunny Morton teaches personal and family history to worldwide audiences. She's a Contributing Editor at Family Tree Magazine, past Contributing Editor at Lisa Louise Cooke's Genealogy Gems, and the author of How to Find Your Family History in U.S. Church Records (co-authored with Harold Henderson, CG); Story of My Life: A Workbook for Preserving Your Legacy; "Genealogy Giants: Comparing the 4 Major Websites," and hundreds of articles. She has degrees in history and humanities from Brigham Young University. Read her work at

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  1. It would be great if we could share private records with people like Ancestry has available without having to provide them with our login–which is why I don’t share now. I’d like to share with a couple of other family members who are working on our expanded family.

    1. I am so confused with some of the information I have recorded and keep finding errors and want to correct all my records. Need help and advise from other member who are researching same families. Thank you for your great program.

    2. I am so confused with some of the information I have recorded and keep finding errors and want to correct all my records. Need help and advise from other member who are researching same families. Thank you for your great program.

  2. Any relatives Of Arabella Hogan, Roche, Coakley, Frazier , mostly London , previously ireland France ,Scotland
    Scandinavia , Spain. , little information welcomed.

  3. I’ve been very disappointed in the shared tree. Began a tree, on which I entered nothing that I did not have proof for. However, people have added to it who have no clue about documentation. People who could not possibly be related to my family have been added, with no way to correct the damage done. I’m not using it anymore, and I wish I could delete it.

    1. Debbie, I understand how this can be very frustrating. We actually just created some content that talks about how you can correct mistakes in your tree. Check it out here!

  4. I have put some information on the site and I have volunteered in the past. I think our roots help us all determine our future and keep us from repeating some of mankind’s mistakes. When I started doing this all these genealogy sites did not exist and only the wealthy or famous knew more than what was tales from their elders. So thank you for allowing us to keep those tales alive even if the facts don’t always match the stories we heard. My mother would tell us about her ancestors they were slave owners and the stories she told us were about the cruelty. So for all you folks worried about skeletons you might uncover choose a different hobby.

  5. Is there a way to share your own private profile with people you know? I would like to see things my mom adds to her profile, and possibly add things for her to approve.